Strategic Arms Debate

June 8, 1979

Report Outline
Opening Salt's Second Round
Arms Control Efforts Since 1945
The Coming Ratification Debate
Special Focus

Opening Salt's Second Round

Treaty Signing: Prelude to Senate Struggle

When President Carter and Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev meet in Vienna on June 15 for the signing of the new strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT II), the event will mark the end of a series of arduous negotiations that began not long after President Nixon's signing of SALT I in Moscow seven years ago. But unlike 1972 when Senate approval of the first treaty came with unexpected ease, a hard fight and close vote on ratification are expected this year. The scenario currently envisioned in Congress is for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to open summer-long hearings in July and for Senate floor debate to begin soon after the traditional August recess. The national debate has already begun outside the halls of Congress and is likely to intensify as the year wears on.

The president and top administration officials have warned that rejection of the treaty could end detente, kill any hope of a new strategic arms agreement, harm other arms control efforts such as the Vienna talks on European force reductions and attempts to curb sales of conventional arms, disrupt America's relations with its allies, undermine its image as a peace-loving nation, and provoke other nations to acquire nuclear weapons. Even if the Senate were merely to amend the treaty, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance has said, the strategic arms negotiations might be damaged beyond repair.

President Carter asserted on May 10 that if the treaty were rejected “we would be looked upon as a warmonger.” Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., rejects such remarks as self-destructive. “I'd like the Soviets to at least go out and invent their own propaganda,” he said in response to Carter's statement. Nunn, respected among his colleagues and especially among southern senators as an expert on defense, has made it clear that he will subject the treaty to close scrutiny regardless of what lofty claims are made for it by administration officials. Many of the Senate's other leaders on defense policy are expected to do the same.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Arms Control and Disarmament
Dec. 13, 2013  Chemical and Biological Weapons
Mar. 2010  Dangerous War Debris
Oct. 02, 2009  Nuclear Disarmament Updated
Jan. 27, 1995  Non-Proliferation Treaty at 25
Dec. 24, 1987  Defending Europe
Feb. 22, 1985  Arms Control Negotiations
Jun. 08, 1979  Strategic Arms Debate
Apr. 09, 1969  Prospects for Arms Control
Mar. 15, 1961  New Approaches to Disarmament
Feb. 25, 1960  Struggle for Disarmament
Nov. 07, 1958  Arms Control: 1958
Jun. 11, 1957  Inspection for Disarmament
Jul. 11, 1955  Controlled Disarmament
Oct. 09, 1933  The Disarmament Conference, 1933
Jan. 05, 1932  World Disarmament Conference of 1932
Apr. 08, 1929  Efforts Toward Disarmament
Mar. 13, 1928  The League of Nations and Disarmament
Feb. 22, 1927  The United States and Disarmament
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Alliances and Security Agreements
Arms Control and Disarmament
U.S. at War: Cold War